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REVIEW: Inquiry into Love and Death by Simone St. James

Dear Ms. St. James:

I didn’t read, although I always intended to, your first book The Haunting of Maddy Clare. Janine included it in a reading roundup. Janine commented that one of the stand out parts of the book was how atmospheric it is. I found the same to be true with An Inquiry into Love and Death.

An Inquiry Into Love and Death by Simone St. JamesThere are romance elements to this story and while I wished for something strong in terms of the romance it was enough to keep me entertained.

Jillian Leigh is an Oxford philosophy student whose uncle Toby just died. Her parents are off to Paris and are refusing to come home to identify the body and pack up Toby’s effects. Jillian is forced to travel to Devonshire at the start of her term term take care of the death business.

In the village of Rothwell, Jillian begins to suspect that her uncle’s death may not have been an accidental fall off the cliff. Jillian’s suspicions are fostered by ghosts, fires, and a strange assortment of neighbors.

This book was one part Scoobie Doo what with the quandary over whether the ghosts were real or manufactured to keep people away from Blood Moon Bay. One part was a gothic. Is someone trying to do harm to Jillian and is it the handsome Scotland Yard inspector Drew Merriken.

There are layers to the story. The ghost layer, the secret of the townspeople, her personal layer, the Scotland Yard layer. They are like vellum sheets, one on top the other. As you read, you slowly peel away each layer to reveal the truth underneath.

Jillian’s character was formed through a strange and conflicting source of empowerment and abandonment by her parents. They told her that she could do anything and she did, educated at Oxford. But they told her that, in part, perhaps because they were not going to be present to do things that ordinary parents would.

One of the more robust characters of the book was the village of Rothwell. While the cast was large, each character seemed distinct from overbearing Diana Kates with her cropped and marcelled hair covered by a variety of hats to Rachel Moorcock, the manager of the market store who has an unexpected suitor.

Altogether, though, this is a story of hauntings. Jillian can’t just pack up and leave everything. Her uncle’s work intrigues her. The village of Rothwell is a bit broken with so many of the men being killed in the war and the ones who returned are changed. There are children without fathers and spinsters who lost their fianc├ęs. Drew, a former solider and Jillian’s love interest, is afraid of making connections with others, too afraid to start feeling again.

Jillian’s motivations are a little less clear. We know she is a curious and unconventional girl, brought up by an unconventional family but what she wants in the future, in a man, in a career, seems occluded. While most of the layers have a satisfactory conclusion, I wasn’t sure of the ghost storyline but maybe I wasn’t supposed to be.

For romance lovers, the romance comes on swift and while it ends hopeful, I think other romance fans might find it less than satisfying. Read it for the atmosphere and the mystery and not the romance. B-

Best regards,


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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Aoife
    Mar 04, 2013 @ 09:02:33

    Thanks for the review, Jane. I’ve been wondering if I should download this. How would you say it ranks on the really-creepy-I’m-never-going-to-sleep-again scale?

    I’m pretty wimpy.

  2. Jane
    Mar 04, 2013 @ 09:04:15

    @Aoife: Not creepy at all. There are definitely scenes that make you think that there are a ghost but it’s also tied up in the suspense plot of her uncle’s death. Like I said, it was a little Scooby Doo – ish.

  3. Aoife
    Mar 04, 2013 @ 11:22:41

    I can probably handle Scooby Doo-ish. I’ll preorder it.

  4. MaryK
    Mar 04, 2013 @ 16:25:25

    I had the same question because the blurb uses the phrases “terrifying events,” “angry spirit” and “spine-chilling secrets.” I don’t like my spine chilled! I was imagining something like Poltergeist. Scooby Doo I can handle though.

  5. Simone St. James
    Mar 04, 2013 @ 17:24:09

    Aoife and MaryK- On the scary scale, it’s a little like an episode of Ghost Hunters, but in a 350-page book. Take that as you will :) Some people find my books scarier than others, but they are definitely not horror, and there is no gore. Hope that helps.

    Thanks again for the review, Jane.

  6. Charlotte Russell
    Mar 04, 2013 @ 18:12:49

    This book should be delivered to my Kindle in the morning. I read The Haunting of Maddy Clare and I wouldn’t describe it as “Scooby Doo” at all. I wouldn’t call it creepy either, but Ms. St. James creates a great atmosphere both physically and emotionally, and I could see that if you were home alone in the dark, you might twitch once or twice:-) I’m looking forward to reading this one!

  7. Susan
    Mar 05, 2013 @ 00:28:05

    I think I must be the only one, but Maddy Clare was a DNF for me. And I hate not finishing a book.

  8. Molly O'Keefe
    Mar 06, 2013 @ 16:42:21

    I’m a wimp – really. But the scary here is perfect for me. It’s not gory and it’s not shocking for the sake of shocking – it’s a really really good ghost story. The vellum comment in Jane’s review is perfect, this is one of those books with lots of layers, all of them create the world.

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